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South Sudan: In the Face of Famine

24 May 2017

South Sudan: In the Face of Famine

Hot, dry air blows in our faces as soon as the door of the plane opens. We’ve just landed on a small airstrip in an area where famine was recently declared by the UN.

I look around. The soil has deep cracks and the fields look yellow. I don’t see any crops, or even the remains of crops. Due to repeated displacement, people were unable to plant their crops; the few who did plant lost their harvest due to floods.

I think about what the people who live here have endured – having to hide in the swamps multiple times for several days, the loss of loved ones, and the daily struggle for food and survival. I wonder how much a human being can bear.

Yet here in this famine-hit region are some of the strongest people I’ve ever met. 

Just six weeks ago, Rebecca was severely malnourished. “I brought my daughter here because she was malnourished. She was wasting away,” says Mary. “I had no food. I had nothing to give to my children. We were eating water lilies. We went to the river to collect them.”

Mary watches now as Rebecca enjoys a Plumpy’Sup sachet, a peanut-based nutritional paste used as treatment for malnutrition.

Mary is thankful to live in a community where people look after each other, but sadly they couldn’t withstand this crisis on their own. “In this community, we share small amounts of food. But sometimes there’s nothing. Then I wait and hope to get it from God.”

Fearing for Rebecca’s life, Mary carried her malnourished daughter for one hour to reach the clinic. “Our children are served by Medair,” she says. “I am learning from Medair too—they taught me how to give food to the children and how to breastfeed. Now I wash the hands of my daughter before I give her Plumpy’Sup.”

Rebecca was discharged from the nutrition programme for severely malnourished children and is now being treated for the less serious condition of moderate acute malnutrition. She is well on her way to a healthy weight: a beautiful victory that reflects hope.

Mary looks at me while breastfeeding Rebecca. “We cry for peace! If there were peace, everything would be good. I want to say ‘thank you’ to Medair. They come close to us. If Medair were not here, all the people would be suffering and children would die.” 

My friends at home sometimes ask me if I still have hope for South Sudan. I do. The people here live in extremely difficult circumstances but keep pressing on—no matter the odds. Like Mary, who takes care of her four children despite facing a constant lack of food and threat of violence. She does so with grace and with a heart full of love for her children. If she still has hope, then so must we all.

In South Sudan, famine has been declared in Leer and Mayendit counties. Throughout the country, nearly five million people are in desperate need of food and nutrition.

With your support, we are working in some of the hardest-hit areas saving lives every day.

Medair helped 18,294 women and children survive malnutrition in 2016. 

Your gift today can save a child’s life in South Sudan. Become a Medair monthly supporter. Monthly gifts enable us to respond without delay wherever people need us most.

Medair’s work in South Sudan is made possible with support from European Union, US Agency for International Development, UK aid from the UK Government, South Sudan Humanitarian Fund, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, US Department of State, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with Tear NL, and through the Dutch Relief Alliance Joint Response for South Sudan, and generous private donors.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.


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